Provided by Union of Catholic Asian News,
CH2910.0626 September 6, 1991 34 EM-lines (325 words)

Catholic Church in Harbin Retains Russian Baroque Style

HARBIN, China (UCAN) -- In a city full of Russian architecture, the Catholic church here at Majiagou Shike Street retains its Russian appearance and Orthodox Church style.

A priest here, Father John Cheng Qianqian, told UCA News in August that many Russian emigrants stayed in Harbin and neighboring areas up to Vladivostok during 1920s and 1930s. Consequently, many buildings were constructed in Russian styles.

Among the city's 3,000 Catholics, there seem to be none of Russian descent, the pastor said, but some Russian residents regularly worship at a nearby Orthodox church.

The Catholic church, known as Saint Aleksiev Church, was built in 1930-35 by Russian architect Smilnov-Tostanovski, says "The Art of Harbin Architecture" published here in June 1990.

Part of the only Eastern Rite autonomous region in the Chinese Catholic Church in 1946, the Harbin church still preserves the cruciform structure of a Greek basilica.

During the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, the church, though not damaged, was occupied by two factories that modified the structure into two stories.

Since its restoration in 1980, the church is on the upper level while the episcopal and clergy residences are on the lower floor.

"The diocese will probably get back the former episcopal residence at Qiulin district in the city center by the end of this year," Father Cheng said.

The bishop, however, will not move to those premises which are to be used as a church, a convent and venues for the faithful's activities, he added.

The Church had rejected the local government's offer of monetary compensation for the building's property rights, he said.

Harbin is now part of the Heilongjiang diocese which is led by the 87-year-old China-appointed Bishop Wang Ruihuan. He is assisted by China-appointed Auxiliary Bishop Louis Liu Huanbo in Qiqihar city.

Also, 13 other clerics in the diocese including three young priests ordained in 1989 help serve the 50,000 Catholics.

Twelve seminarians are studying philosophy at Shenyang Regional Seminary.

The diocese's finances are stable due to regular rent payment from church property occupants, Father Cheng added.